18 Trader Joe's Coffee Varieties, Ranked Worst To Best

Trader Joe's may be best known for its extensive frozen food section and affordable wine and cheese offerings. However, its growing aisle of coffees has remained an under-the-radar selection, perhaps due to the sometimes inscrutable variables between beans.

With coffees spanning several roasts, origins, and even flavoring, the Trader Joe's coffee collection occupies a substantial strip of each store's real estate. And though the chain brought back the pre-pandemic tradition of storewide sanctioned sampling and pairing, the coffee stations located in the rear of each TJ's remain silent as of late 2022. Until that changes, taking home a pound (or two) of their various coffees is the only way to test drive the dizzying amount of coffee options the store offers.

To give you a head start, we piled an armload of Trader Joe's year-round coffee selections (they also offer pumpkin spice and gingerbread-infused grounds during the holiday seasons) into our red plastic carts. Taking them all home to make our daily pour-overs, we tested the best and worst of Trader Joe's disparate coffee options for you; jitters be damned.

18. French Roast (ground)

We don't know who the intended audience is for Trader Joe's French Roast. A cup of this ground coffee brews so densely it looks like a vat of paint while sitting in a mug. On the tongue, it crashes onto the palate, shatters any potential to enjoy a relaxing morning routine, and tastes and smells like an old cigar box. 

Thick and menthol-like, we're guessing French Roast ground's core audience is folks who take their coffee with not only a dollop of cream and sugar but a heaping glug of flavorings, whip, and even sprinkles. To say this is by far Trader Joe's worst offender doesn't fully encapsulate how dismal it is. If you dare take a bag home, also grab a case of Trader Joe's Sparkling Water to cleanse your palate.

17. French Roast (whole bean)

While we've never been devotees of dark roasted coffee, we can sip on a short pour of French roast every now and then (usually post dessert). However, the whole bean version of Trader Joe's French Roast thoroughly misses its target in every regard. The gleam of oil tarping each bean shines so prominently that they catch the light, not unlike greasy diamonds. 

Once brewed, the beans keep their promise and result in a bitter, unpalatable boldness. It wipes out any subtle dimensions the beans might have once possessed and simultaneously detracts from any food you might be trying to enjoy alongside your cup of morning coffee. Furthermore, once we put down our mug for a brief reprieve, the surface of the liquid became home to the oily gunk we took note of before brewing. 

16. Organic Sumatra Coffee (whole bean)

Upon opening the tin of Organic Sumatra coffee beans, we spied red flags all over the place. The beans appear to be roasted so dark they were almost black and covered in the oily glaze we balk at. Once ground and awaiting hot water, the deep, dark grinds refuse to bloom, and the water runs too quickly through the coffee. This created an overly dark, syrupy cup that tasted solely bitter. 

Even the mouthfeel of the coffee translates weighty and intrusive, yet dull. Curiously, the packaging nudges its reader to enjoy a mug of Sumatra Coffee "after a savory meal." This seems like Trader Joe's is trying to find a positive quality in a subpar can of coffee by creating a circumstance their coffee drinker would rarely find themselves in. While we admit that we're not sure if a salty meal would offset how unpalatable we find Trader Joe's Sumatra, we highly suspect the pairing advice to be a cleverly planted red herring.

15. Organic Fair Trade Five Country Espresso Blend (whole bean)

As we brewed the blend of El Salvadoran, Guatemalan, Mexican, Peruvian, and Indonesian beans found in the Five Country Espresso Blend, we prepared ourselves for an invasion of intense, over-roasted beans because they were nearly pitch-black in color. However, we were somewhat pleased to sip on a coffee whose mouthfeel was round, balanced, and a little creamy on the back of our tongues. 

The nose is bright and spritely, but the coffee mellows into a sour blanket that coats the mouth. With creamers, the espresso shines and relays a less harsh finish than we anticipated from homemade, preground espresso beans. Neither espresso we sampled from Trader Joe's was able to create the crema we enjoy from a shot of cafe espresso, no matter the brewing method.

14. Fair Trade Organic Bolivia Blend (whole bean)

What we first noticed about Trader Joe's Bolivia Blend was how oily the beans looked, slippery to the touch, and slightly ashy in their aroma. Sourced from several (though the bag doesn't specify) family farms "between the peak of the Andes and the Amazon Basin," the tin blends both medium and dark roasts but smells aggressively dark and brews into a deep color as well. Incredibly bitter and flat at the same time, the package boasts of a caramel note we couldn't detect over the bitter wipe-out of over-roasted beans. 

Comprised entirely of the world's most grown coffee beans, Arabica, the medium to small beans are taken way past the point of being sippable. This Bolivia Blend yearns for a tablespoon or two of creamer or oat milk to mellow out the bitter, acidic taste that otherwise sticks around on your tongue long after sipping.

13. Italian Roast Ground Espresso Coffee

Packaged in a little canister to signal espresso and a shorter pour, Trader Joe's Italian Roast Ground Espresso showed little promise when we cracked open the tin merely judging by the potent, nearly burnt smell emitting from the unassuming canister. However, we can't help but grade all at-home espresso on a curve. No matter the equipment, nothing beats a well-dialed machine shot pulled by a professional barista who's been doing it all day.

So instead of attempting to recreate a barista-made espresso, we followed the instructions for a pour-over version and made a mini-sized cup of coffee. It was dark in color and free of any mile markers of distinction. The miniature cup did possess a thicker, rounder, more saline-like mouth feel along with the bitter, dense finish we've come to know from drinking the contents of a demitasse cup.

12. Joe's Dark Coffee (ground)

We have to admit that dark-roasted coffee isn't typically our thing, so we side-eyed the bag of Joe's Dark ground coffee beans as we heated up the kettle. As suspected, the grounds refused to bloom into the coffee fluff we like to see while making a pour-over coffee with our trusted Chemex, and the hot water slipped a little too quickly through the grasp of the coffee grounds. 

Though our cup of this dark roast wasn't an experience we yearn to repeat, it wasn't as offensive to the taste buds as we anticipated. Smelling and tasting both extremely dark baking chocolate, the dark roast lacks dimension but boasts none of the acidic secondary notes we initially feared. With a generous helping of sugar, the edge of bitterness was massaged into an espresso-like cup of coffee that would pair well with a slice of German chocolate cake or another ultra-rich dessert.

11. Organic Fair Trade Shade Grown Ethiopian (whole bean)

The can of Shade Grown Ethiopian coffee explains its tasting notes as "sweet and floral." Still, we were unable to pick out the delicate tendencies the beans might hold because of the overpowering smell and taste. At this point, we began to wonder why Trader Joe's catalog of coffees insists on being so diverse when so many of the coffees check the same boxes but merely boast different packaging and verbiage.

The Shade Grown Ethiopian beans flaunt a slight baking spice edge (mostly cardamom). Yet, the beans tasted too weighty for their own good and left us wishing they were more lightly roasted so we could decipher some gentler notes that the shade-grown beans probably once possessed.

10. Decaf Joe Medium Roast (ground)

Somewhat of a novice to decaf coffee and its appeal, we understand the demand for a noncaffeinated coffee option from every purveyor of the real thing. From what we've (almost entirely accidentally tasted) of decaffeinated coffee in the past, Trader Joe's rendition of the ground beans are par-for-the-course. While we didn't wish to keep sipping our mug of decaf, we don't see TJ's decaf to be any more or less loathsome than the average decaf.  

The taste was astringently sour on the first sip, then settled into a sharp approximation of our morning beverage of choice. That said, while brewing, the decaf ground beans give off a toasted bread aroma we appreciated in our kitchen. At the very least, this bag supplied us with a coffee-scented diffuser for the day.

9. Organic Joe Medium Roast (ground)

Organic Joe Medium Roast exists in Trader Joe's line of products wherein the grocery store opts for old-timey illustrations of bespectacled and top-hat-adorned men to decorate the packaging. While we root for the brand to reimagine this visual representation of its products, we also have to admit many of these items are among our favorites, including the Unexpected Cheddar Cheese Spread.

Preground, Joe Medium Roast embodies the phrase "middle of the road" in every way possible. The coffee fills the room with a gratifying aroma, but in the cup, the coffee disenchants almost immediately. Bitter the moment the liquid hits your tongue, this medium roast fumbles on the palette but thankfully swiftly fades away. A coffee built for utilitarian purposes to provide a morning jolt of caffeine, it doesn't mess around trying to create anything artisan. We'd never seek out Organic Joe Medium Roast but would gladly reach for a bag during a caffeine crash.

8. Joe Medium Roast (whole bean)

After what seemed like a marathon of darkly roasted coffees, we were relieved to heat up a medium-roasted mug. What met us was a more understated cup of coffee good enough to drink on its own and without any clingy, bombastic notes. Smelling slightly citrusy, Joe's Medium Roast has enough acidity to balance out the more shadowy notes of earth while sashaying any bitter quality the beans could've taken on if roasted any further. 

This is the kind of coffee we imagine sitting in an ad agency's office pot. It is light enough to sip on mindlessly all day while puttering around at a desk and didn't leave us queasy or jittered. Yes, Joe's Medium Roast misses the opportunity to hatch its own sense of personality or charm. Still, by avoiding any of the major pitfalls, the coffee sits near the center of our list anyway.

7. Organic Fair Trade Wake-Up Blend (whole bean)

Don't assume that Trader Joe's most economy-sized barrels of coffee hold within them the brand's lesser beans. The Wake-Up Blend of whole beans (from Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, and Peru) are without a sheen of oil. Despite hailing from four disparate countries, they work together to produce a pleasing cup of morning coffee.

TJ's Wake-Up Blend comes in a huge tin roughly the size of a human head and smells like generic coffee with a whisper of something acidic. In the cup, the mix of beans comes together agreeably enough at first but a little sloppy on the back end with a sour finish that asks for creamer to hide its flaws. We see why TJ's assigned this blend to the morning as a covert way of suggesting that it's good but not great, kind of like reminding your date to dress casually for dinner. Wake-Up Blend won't knock anyone's socks off, but it does wake its drinker up kindly. 

6. French Vanilla Coffee (ground)

This is a coffee for when you feel like soaking in a nostalgic bath bomb of your childhood. Just opening the bag unleashes a strong vanilla smell reminiscent of the Maxwell House International Coffee tins we enjoyed as adolescents. Medium roasted with Arabica beans that are then dressed up with French vanilla flavor oil (suspiciously not vanilla beans or extract), we know this bag is a far cry from a serious coffee. However, it serves a purpose none of the others do by leaning into a guilty pleasure. 

Either way, we respect the commitment to an era of coffee long since past with this throwback roast that smells like our imagination's version of Central Perk. It certainly brought us back to our first memories of coffee discovery. 

5. Indian Pearl Mountain (whole bean)

Unlike most of TJ's coffees, Indian Pearl Mountain feels like it received a branding upgrade. The bag appears to be masquerading as a locally roasted coffee and even gets a fancy resealable bag made to look more cafe-esque. Looking like Trader Joe's gone indie rock, a rudimentary graphic of a mountain and a sans-serif font both mimic the model of hip coffee shop branding and draw your eye to the more put-together bag. 

Grown in South India's Western Ghats mountains, which the bag claims to be "one of the world's most micro diverse regions," the coffee tastes like bittersweet chocolate and red berries. However, with all of its good qualities, the brewed coffee tastes a little acrid, maybe because the beans have been sitting on the shelf past their prime. After a few minutes of cooling, the cup settles down but still yearns for a dash of cream or sugar. 

4. Joe Light Roast (ground)

The sole light roast in the entirety of Trader Joe's library of coffees, Joe Light Roast is gentle on the nose and tastes like a decent diner coffee — though it lacks depth and dimension but as a trade-off. The bag honestly describes the ground coffee as "nothing fancy," which is precisely the lane where Trader Joe's shines. Like its mango strips and trail mix, the store's light roast coffee is an ideal coffee to serve alongside a big table of food or to take camping. 

Nothing about it will bowl you over, but it also knows its place and doesn't insert itself where it doesn't belong. Made entirely of Arabica beans, Trader Joe's light roast builds on the back of the palette to a slightly astringent tinge that dissipates with the presence of fatty foods.

3. Organic Fair Trade Breakfast Blend (whole bean)

We've found that gravitating toward breakfast blends pays off when shopping for easy-drinking, no-frills grocery store coffee. True to form, Trader Joe's rendition of the almost obligatory blend comes through.  

This one is substantially less oily than the majority of what haunts the stock on TJ's coffee shelves. And yet, the blend smells like an elevated Folgers or like waking up at your in-law's house and being welcomed in the morning to a pot of coffee that's been sitting in the pot since 6 a.m. Though a little bitter on the top-tasting notes, especially for a lighter-roasted coffee, this organic brew immediately took hold of our systems and lit us up for the day. Generic as it may be, the medium roasted beans are perfect for a big breakfast party and smooth enough to be drunk black. 

2. Colombia Supremo (whole bean)

Colombia Supremo's medium roasted beans derive entirely from Colombia. They smell like clean earth and slate, whether whole, ground, or made into a cup of coffee. Colombia Supremo, though less bold and personality-driven than other Trader Joe's coffees, drinks the smoothest and is without any obvious flaws or dealbreakers that make us want to put our mug down.

The coffee tin itself brags that the Colombia Supremo makes for a "terrific coffee for all day, every day." If we were the kind of caffeine consumer who required a constant drip during waking hours, we'd lean on Colombia for its accessibility and general ease. Another two-pound economy canister, we'll be bringing this bucket-sized tin to the office for its affability and ease. 

1. Summer Camp (whole bean)

Even our check-out clerk pointed to Summer Camp as her favorite of all Trader Joe's coffees. Unlike most items at Trader Joe's, Summer Camp beans can be easily traced back to Campfire, a Tacoma-based, Black-owned coffee roaster. Both potent and subtle, Campfire tastes earthy with notes of forest floor and wet wood. Though the beans are slightly past the roasting point we prefer, the medium-dark coffee avoids any bitter, acrid, sour notes the other coffees cannot help but carry. 

Plus, while most of the beans represented at Trader Joe's are overwhelmingly Arabica, the Chiapas are more delicate and less bombastic on the palate. It's easily the best bag in the store. However, at about $15, we only foresee plopping another bag of Campfire into our Trader Joe's cart when trying to accomplish a single-destination shopping trip or finding ourselves in an unfamiliar town with limited coffee options. Otherwise, you can take home a bag of freshly roasted coffee from a local roaster (or Campfire themselves in the Tacoma area) for the same price.